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WESTERN AUSTRALIAN PIPE ORGANS


The original proscenium and stage


John Furhmann at the console

Perth Metro
The Metro Theatre in 1938.  Note organ console at left of stage.


Ray Clements at the console


Name of institution Metro Theatre
Type of institution Cinema
Street Address William Street
City Perth
State Western Australia
Postcode 6000
Country Australia
Name of building Metro Theatre
Name of room Metro Theatre
Dates of the building 1927
Architect’s and builder’s names Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson
Special architectural features
Special fittings
Other location information On this site in William Street, Perth, the Queen’s Hall was built in 1899 for the owners, the Wesley Methodist Church. (opened 19 April, 1899)  Among the early artists to appear there were Dame Nellie Melba and Clara Butt. With the advent of film, Queen's Hall became the venue for Vic's Pictures.

In 1927 Hoyts Theatres Ltd negotiated with the church to rebuild on the site and lease it, transforming it into the Regent Theatre, complete with chandeliers imported from Italy and a Wurlitzer organ. The theatre was not as large nor as opulent as the Regent theatres that were Hoyts flagships in the other Australian capitals. The Perth Regent was designed by architects Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson and opened on 9th September 1927. The opening film was "Three Bad Men" with George O'Brien and Olive Borden.

In 1938 Hoyts took over management of the larger Perth Ambassador’s Theatre from Union Theatres Ltd,. the lease of the Regent was transferred to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and it was thereafter known as the Perth Metro. Under this management the theatre was refurbished both internally and externally in modern art deco style designed by architects Baxter, Cox & Leighton. The Metro management continued until 1970, Roadshow taking over the lease until the theatre was closed in 1973 and was demolished.

It remained one of Perth's most stylish, comfortable and most-loved theatres until its demolition in 1973, its final film being a revival of "Gone With the Wind".

Under both Hoyts and Metro managements the theatre was used as a cinema during the week, but continued to be used by Wesley Methodist Church on Sundays, particularly in the summer months. (This use was similar to that in force at the Lyceum theatre, Sydney, New South Wales under arrangements between Union Theatres (later Greater Union) and the Central Methodist Mission (later Wesley Mission.)
Name of contact
Mailing Address
Telephone
Email
Other contact information
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Date of previous organs None
Detail of previous organs
Dates when key work has been undertaken
Dates of any moves that have taken place
Variations from original design of organ
Information on previous organs
Information about comparable instruments to previous organs
.
Present organ
Type of installation
Case description
Placement in room
Builder's name WurliTzer Company, North Tonawanda, U.S.A.
Opus number 1728, Style F
Date of completion/installation 1927
Construction materials
Number of manuals Two (2)
Key compasses
Number of keys
Key material
Pedal compass
Number of pedals
Pedalboard type
Pedalboard material
Type of chests
Type of key action
Type of stop action
Couplers
Tremulants
Accessories   
Console type Remote horse-shoe stopkey console
Stop label material
Placement Left of stage on riser
General design
Playing aids
Divisions   
Wind pressures
Stop list
MAIN
Tuba Horn Original
Open Diapason Original
Tibia Clausa Original
Clarinet Original
Viole d’Orchestre Original
Celeste Original
Flute Original
Vox Humana.
Original
Trumpet
Kinura
Orchestral Oboe
Krumet


.
Total number of stops
Total number of ranks 8 extended ranks, later enlarged to 12 ranks
Total number of pipes
Dates when key work has been undertaken on current organ

Hoyts had ordered a 2 manual 8 ranks Christie theatre organ for installation in the new Regent theatre. Some commentators believe this installation took place. (The organ was in fact stored backstage in the Rosemount Theatre which is now a bowling alley – but never installed.) WurliTzer theatre organ opus number 1728 (style F, 2 manuals 7 ranks) had become available because it was realised that it was unsuitable for the larger Regent theatre in Adelaide, South Australia. Hoyts had it redirected to Perth and it was enlarged to 8 ranks. The Christie organ in question went to the DeLuxe theatre in Melbourne, where it opened in July 1929; by April 1930 it had been relocated again to the Plaza theatre in Sydney. (For the ongoing history of this Christie organ see the New South Wales section of this site under Savoy, Enfield.) The WurliTzer organ was opened on 4th August 1928 by organist Roy Devaney.

Very shortly thereafter the organ had been further enlarged to 12 ranks. Other organists who performed there included Les Waldron, Percy Burraston, Mignonne Jago, Bernie Randall, and Jack Laing, some “doubling up” at the nearby Ambassador’s theatre. In the era of the Metro when the proscenium was modified in the 1950s to accommodate CinemaScope, the organ’s sound was strangled because only narrow apertures were provided in front of the chambers.

According to former Organ Society of WA archivist Bob Elms the nickname “Cheddar” was attached to organist Mr Edwin Stanley (Stan) Craft, A.R.C.M., L.MUS.A., B.E.M. He lived at 75 Hay Street Subiaco. Teaching both piano and organ students he was Wesley Church organist and in 1923 appointed foundation music teacher at Wesley College and on staff until 1947. He was reputed to dislike playing the Wurlitzer organ for church purposes and had its 5 tremulants disconnected. Organ maintenance man Mick Dodd Brian Jervis Uniting Church archivist provided the photo of E.S. Craft. advised on one occasion a tambourine stop was inadvertently turned on during a hymn. This resulted in a direction to silence all Wurlitzer percussions and traps which was achieved by providing an earth cut-out switch. In 1965 Mr Craft received a British Empire Medal in recognition of his services to music. In the 1950s burnt out Wurlitzer chest magnet replacements were unavailable so Dodds disabled the jazzy Kinura rank which was not suitable for church music and used its magnets elsewhere in the organ.

The organ fell into disuse by 1948 except for occasional use by the Wesley Church. In 1966 after trialling midweek use of the organ by John Fuhrmann, he was employed by MGM as staff organist and the instrument used on Friday and Saturday nights.

Some restoration work was done by organ builder Mick Dodd (who, with his father, had done the original installation), and numbers of concerts were held through the auspices of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia.

John Fuhrmann was organist from 1966 to1973. Whilst at school John Fuhrmann adapted his classical piano training to organ courtesy of the Scotch College chaplain Rev. James Muir a former theatre organist in Scotland. As a promotion for Vox Adeon Ltd he played intermission music on Lowrey organ in the Ambassadors theatre for the James Bond films “From Russia with Love” and “Goldfinger”. At the request of the Ambassadors manager he was permitted to try the Metro Wurlitzer and was then engaged to play a 10week operetta series. (Photo: Mick Dodd and John Fuhrmann) A timely visit by the Sydney based Australian MGM manager resulted in organ chamber opening enlargements and his employment to play the Wurlitzer at weekends. To concentrate on theatre organ, he relinquished playing for St. Andrews Subiaco church services. During this period MGM hired the theatre to the Theatre Organ Society (WA) for concerts.

In 1969 the chamber apertures were again opened up, providing a much better sound. In the era of Roadshow management concerts were given by noted organists Tony Fenelon and Eric Smith (from the east coast) and Vic Hammett (from the U.K.) who played the final concert before the organ was removed on 27th August 1973. 

Cecil (Vic) Hammett Visiting English organist Vic Hammett played the Metro Wurlitzer on three occasions including a one-week season and the final public concert. He played organ at Madame Tussauds and joined Gaumont British Theatres in 1935. Joining Doorlay’s Revue “The Wonder Rocket” to play a world tour on Hammond organ in 1939 he was interned as a POW in Germany for 6 years to May 1945. He re-joined Gaumont British Theatres after the war, recorded LPs and undertook concert tours which included Australia and the USA. Hammett had the ability to make a small sized pipe organ sound majestic. He died in 1974 suffering peritonitis after an Australian tour.

No person has done more to popularise theatre organ in Australia than Tony Fenelon. (Anthony (Tony) Fenelon, L.Mus.A.) He commenced playing at Melbourne’s RegentTheatre in 1964 and remained resident organist until the Theatre’closure in 1970. Melbourne City Council plans to demolish theTheatre were resisted by the public and he played its re-opening in 1996 on an imported and refurbished Wurlitzer from the USA. His first Metro Theatre organ concert was in 1969. He has continued to play a concert on this organ for all but two years since.


Dates of any moves that have taken place to current organ The organ was removed on 27th August 1973 when it was bought by John Fuhrmann and Ray Clements and has since been rebuilt as a 3 manuals 21 ranks organ installed in the Karrinyup Community Centre.
The original 2 manual console has gone to the Theatre Organ Society of Australia, A.C.T.division.
Information on current organ Presently installed in the Karrinyup Community Centre.
Comparable instruments to current organ
Current status
Assessment of organ
Other organs by this builder
Photographs Craft
Mr Edwin Stanley Craft
Technical documents 
General documents Information from Cinema Treasures
Information from Rod Blackmore
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Supporting information
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Document control Original entries J R Elms, OAM, Gazetteer of Western Australian Pipe Organs, 1971, 1999,2003 and 2004.
This entry D B Duncan 07 January 2009.
Additional photographs from Andrew Gardner and Karrinyup Wurlitzer Organ 16 April 2020.
Information on Stan Craft, John Furhmann, Vic Hammett and Tony Fenlon provided by John Furhmann 09 October 2020.

 



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